CONCORD, N.C. — A win at the NHRA Carolina Nationals propelled Antron Brown to a Top Fuel title last season during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
He’s hoping that this year will end with the same result after his mammoth performance on Sunday afternoon at zMAX Dragway.
Brown stormed to his 12th career Countdown victory, fifth of the season, 42nd in Top Fuel and 59th career NHRA win after driving down the ‘Bellagio of Drag Strips’ in 3.763 seconds at 319.29 mph to beat out longtime rival Doug Kalitta.
With the win, Brown extends his points lead to 42 over Kalitta heading to the series’ next race at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
“I’m dreaming right now. Somebody needs to come pinch me,” Brown said. “This is the way you want to start the Countdown off. Qualifying didn’t go the way we wanted it to and we missed out a little bit on Friday night, but we just kept digging, brother. That was the key, to keep digging.”
“We were low (ET) of the fourth and final (qualifying) session and that gave us some confidence heading into today. The track got to be the hottest we have had all year long (132 degrees). We had to navigate it and we had to face some of the toughest matchups we’ve had all year … but we put the work in today and we were fortunate enough to win.”
Kalitta’s run in the final round was a losing 3.811 at 320.48. He drove around Ike Maier, Leah Pritchett and Wayne Newby in making it to the end of the eliminations bracket.
In a battle of veterans, John Force kicked off a run at his 17th Funny Car championship by topping Tommy Johnson Jr. to win the Funny Car final.
Force made a run of 3.946 seconds at 324.05 mph to beat Johnson’s losing pass of 3.987 at 315.71.
The win was Force’s third of the season and 146th of his Funny Car career, following earlier triumphs at Denver and Sonoma during the Western Swing. It was also his first win in the fall race at zMAX Dragway, meaning he has now won every race on the NHRA calendar at least once.
“It’s stadiums like (zMAX Dragway) that really create the magic in your heart and (make) you want to race,” said Force, who beat Dave Richards, Tim Wilkerson and points leader Ron Capps en route to his 264th career final round appearance.
“I’ve got a race car now that I can race with. When you get a race car and you’re on your game – I ain’t great, but I’m good – but when I’m on my game I can win and we did that today.”
The win moved Force to third in points, 50 behind Capps and just eight markers behind defending champion Del Worsham.
In his run to the final, Johnson outran Bob Gilbertson, two-time champion Matt Hagan and Worsham, who won the Carolina Nationals a year ago en route to the title.
The Pro Stock class finals saw Jason Line (Pro Stock Car) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) snare victories in their respective classes. For more information on those races, click here.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series teams will continue their playoff runs at Gateway Motorsports Park, Sept. 23-25, with the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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